Stumbled upon a few lines late last night and couldn’t help reading these again and saving for later, so maybe for sharing, maybe just to keep, as a reminder or so. Why? Not because the piece made me see the scene – these girls and their emerald-green drink, and the awful black tea, and little crystals of white sugar everywhere around the teacup. Well, of course, I saw it all and much more, but that’s not the point. Books make us see scenes all the time.
It also took me somewhere else – to a couple of casual, forgotten and maybe not entirely significant moments back in time. Now, all of a sudden I was there: sitting outside a bakery at Rue de Buci, right on the corner with Rue de Siene; that’s just a stop for a snack and a coffee along one of my favorite walks in Paris. I walked across the river, and the streets were so calm and almost empty, as if the neighborhood was not up yet in the middle of the day, and I kept walking straight, turned right and here I am at a busy corner and don’t want to leave too soon, so I stay for a tart and a coffee.
At the same time, I thought of another place from the past – an open-air cafe in Lijiang old town (a remote place in Yunnan province in China),where back in mid-nineties local coffee was served, some good fifteen years before Starbucks and coffee really got into China. So in Yunnan, coffee was there for a few decades already, probably came from the French in the nearby Indochina, as they introduced it along with decent bakeries and cheese, but these didn’t make their way to China. It wasn’t anything special back then, while I had it on a sunny February afternoon, but it was fun to have a proper espresso made from the local beans in the middle of the green tea land.
In Paris I sit outside with my daughter, we’re both wearing leathers, mine is black and hers is pink and our tarts are awesome and we like the napkins and enjoy watching the street.
In Lijiang I sit there as a young guy, the air is February crisp but I have my face in the sun, and there are my two classmates there, and they like the sun as well (we came from another place in China, a grey-sky-winter place), and I finish up my coffee and look into the cup just to think how good it was and see a little line of coffee crumbs on the inside of the cup.
Sitting outside, the chill of the air and the warmth of the sun make me feel content, excited even, and I think about what great things life may bring. But in Paris, though it’s a nice moment, there is no hope for excitement as my life is already half-way done.
So here is the piece I just read (by one Natalie Goldberg):
“I look up from my notebook. There are two women across from me. They are both drinking a deep green liqueur. No, not deep green, it is emerald green with ice. They are young, in their late twenties. The one with blond hair is wearing big circle earrings and has a dark fur coat flung over her seat. I look at their small table. There is a round silver tray with a white cup and saucer, two cubes of sugar, a white teapot with Ceylon tea brewing in it, and a small white pitcher with hot water to dilute the tea. I look at the space between the small pitcher and the teapot and my mind remembers a large boulevard in Norfolk, Nebraska. It is summer there and a man in his twenties lives in an upstairs apartment. I broke his heart. I did not mean to. It was years ago. His loving was sweet and tender and simple. I didn’t believe in love then. My marriage had just broken up. I remember Kevin sitting at his kitchen table, his glasses off, wearing a yellow nylon shirt. I had a dream then that I was looking for lemon lozenges in the aisle of a drugstore. In the next aisle was Kevin and in the aisle past that was Paris. I knew about Paris and I woke up happy.”